By Leah Nath, Staff Writer
The department of theater arts and the Sunderman Conservatory of Music premiered their performance of “The Prom” on Thursday night. Opening night was a hit, with rousing and consistent laughter heard from the audience for a full two hours, followed by a standing ovation.
“The Prom” is a light-hearted, feel-good show about Emma, a high school girl from Indiana who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom, but she first has to overcome the near-insurmountable discrimination of her community. With its often millennial-reminiscent humor and unabashed individualism, this show speaks loudly and proudly. The promotion of inclusivity and universal value is emphasized explicitly with an intensely genuine and endearing attitude.
In such a highly polarized time, director and theatre arts professor Chris Kauffman commented on the relevance of the show’s thematic message: “…this show is shockingly more timely now than it was when it premiered in 2018 on Broadway. Consequently, now is the time for shows like ‘The Prom’ to take a stand for equality and inclusion, and to celebrate having the courage to be who you are.”
Dee Dee Allen (Adela Holahan ’24) and Barry Glickman (Aiden Ludka ’24) are struggling Broadway actors looking for an altruistic cause to improve their reputation as narcissists. They are joined by fellow actors Trent (Logan Sodl ’25) and Angie (Libby Drew ’24), as well as PR agent Sheldon (Evan Hilborn ’25) in this undertaking. The group settled on helping Emma, played by the star and lead of the show Ren Mirenda ’27. Emma is a shy yet unwavering seventeen-year-old who just wants to dance with her girlfriend, Alyssa, played by Katie Poliero ’25. Alyssa’s mother, played by Vivian Davenport ’25, leads the PTA and the community movement against Emma, making it particularly difficult for Alyssa to come out.
Despite their characters’ self-obsessions, Holahan and Ludka brought a self-confidence to their roles that made Dee Dee and Barry highly likable. Ludka stole the audience’s hearts with his proud dancing and unshakeable spirit. Holahan filled the theater with her entrancing singing, a shining star at heart.
The true key to Dee Dee and Barry’s character improvement throughout the show was due to Emma. Mirenda sang with an effortless earnestness and seemed as comfortable on stage as one might be alone in their own house. Their quiet self-assured energy was the perfect complement to the Broadway actors’ wild liveliness and the grounding foundation for the entire cast and show. Helping Emma navigate the challenges of her town’s behavior allowed Barry to devote himself to someone outside his own interests and Dee Dee to discover the value of self-sacrifice. Dee Dee was also assisted in her transformation by high school principal Mr. Hawkins, a role which Charlie Wingert ’25 played with all the kindness and stature associated with the best type of teacher.
This musical is bright and fast-paced, entirely dependent on complete commitment to make the roles believable. The cast exceeded this necessity, seemingly having the time of their lives on stage and ensuring that the performance is nothing but delightful to witness. The ensemble of this show shone, with facial expressions and dance moves expressing overwhelming enjoyment. Sodl and Hilborn brought a joy and personal spin to their characters that are mirrored by the ensemble, making it impossible to leave this performance without a face sore from smiling.
Drew brought a warmth and elegance to her role, accompanied by a wonderful song which spurred Emma into taking a stand for her story. Despite Emma and Alyssa’s difficult journey through the plot, the two managed to come out on the other side together. They even seemed to sway Alyssa’s mother by the end of the show, whom Davenport played in a strict and highly believable manner. Mirenda and Poliero’s depth for their characters made the story satisfying to experience, and even though their voices had quite differing individual tones, their duets together were seamless and beautiful.
“The Prom” has remaining showings at The Majestic at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4, as well as at 2:00 p.m. on Nov. 5.
(Editor’s Note: This article was edited at 1:27 p.m. on November 6, 2023 to correct misspellings of cast members’ names. – L. Franchetti)